Many small businesses across the country have been taking advantage of a recent surge in bike-related business opportunities. Here, both new and existing businesses have been able to tap into changing attitudes (favoring biking over cars as the preferred type of transportation) as a way to drive traffic and boost their sales. This type of business model can take many different forms, including establishing retail stores along popular cycling paths and finding innovative ways to target this customer group. Many business owners have been able to capitalize these trends by promoting offerings aligned with this particular population’s interests: such as a health food store or bicycle repair and gear shop.
Interestingly, academic studies are backing up the idea that promoting cycling can have wide reaching positive economic effects. In fact, in one study looking specifically at Iowa’s economy, researchers estimated that all aspects of the cycling industry contributed $435 million per year to that state’s economy. Similar studies found parallel results, with bike driven business contributing $481 million per year to Minnesota, $556 per year to Wisconsin, and a whopping $1 billion per year to Colorado. In each state, this included all economic activity related to bicycles, such as increased sales by bike retailers, boosts in out of state tourism, a bump in traffic to businesses that were located in close proximity to bike lanes, gains from positive health effects, and a number of other factors.
One interesting bike related business development program was recently launched in Memphis, Tennessee, where the city government converted old trolley tracks and railroad bridges into bike lanes. Businesses then came in, targeting biking populations by instituting coffee shops and restaurants that were marketed as a meeting place or hub for cyclists. This proved to be a highly effective strategy, transforming a formerly blighted part of central Memphis into a vibrant arts district.
Likewise, the newly implemented bike share program in New York City has opened up a whole new customer group for small business entrepreneurs: commuter cyclists. An example of this is the recent development of fashion line Vespertine by Sarah Canner—a line of couture reflective biking apparel for female cyclists.
Melendez, Eleazar David. “Bike-Friendly Companies Doing Brisk Business as Bike Culture, Infrastructure Gains Ground.” The Huffington Post. 7/16/13.